Heroes in Crisis? More like King in Crisis. This is definitely a Tom King book, and I don’t mean that in a positive way. That’s not to say that he’s a terrible writer. King has written many incredible comics. In fact, if I were to make a top ten list of my favorite comic books – graphic novels/ trades, short stories, or single issues – his work would appear more than once. Instead, this is a “Tom King book” because it consists of all of Tom King’s worst habits as a writer.
Heroes in Crisis #7 promised a huge reveal, and while there is a “reveal” here – one that could potentially be huge – it is presented in a way that only creates more questions. We don’t need more questions at this point. We’ve been presented with plenty of questions throughout the past six issues. It’s time to stop posing questions and start providing definitive answers, or, at the very least, direction. Now, if King had been answering some of these questions throughout the run and progressing the plots established from the questions presented, then I wouldn’t be as bothered by the book’s current state… but he hasn’t done that. And, believe it or not, as problematic as this is, it isn’t the book’s greatest concern.
The main problem plaguing Heroes in Crisis is that King doesn’t know what type of story he wants to tell, and thus, he is trying to tell too many stories at once. Yes, I will admit that there probably is some editorial interference here, but that’s ultimately beside the point. The book was marketed as a murder mystery/ event. One of the main themes of the book is that it focuses on trauma. While HiC has nailed the thematic focus quite well, the main attributes have fallen flat.
Yes, we have been presented with many situations that constitute a mystery, but King has failed to follow-through on any of it. The thing about mysteries are that they need to be explored for them to actually be a mystery. You can’t just present questions then move on and call that a mystery. You also can’t lay all of your cards out on the table in the first issue, then do nothing but revisit these same potential possibilities again in future chapters as if it’s a new, unestablished element of said mystery. All you’re doing is creating a sense of “been there, done that.”
If you haven’t been reading Heroes in Crisis on a monthly basis, then let me remind you of what’s been established. In the very first issue, King:
- Revealed the massacre.
- Created uncertainty pertaining to who is responsible for the massacre.
- And questioned the reliability/ stability of the artificial intelligence of Sanctuary itself.
Since then, we’ve also learned:
- That a Green Lantern has been killed (but we’ve yet to learn who).
- That the Sanctuary A.I. was trying to learn and understand human emotions.
- That video confessionals of our heroes have been leaked to the media (though we don’t know to what extent).
- That the Puddlers (whoever they are) are behind the leak and potentially instigated the massacre.
- That the human race now questions the mental stability of our heroes (though we haven’t explored any backlash since the reveal).
- That the Sanctuary A.I. can create copies of people (though it hasn’t been determined whether these copies are merely mental projections or if it can manifest a corporeal form).
- That we cannot trust what people think they’ve witnessed.
Do you know what King has done with each of these threads since they were presented? Nothing. Zilch. They’re just there. Seven issues into a story, and we haven’t expanded on any notion that has been presented. We’ve just been given more teases of what’s already been teased. We now have two issues left, and while these threads could be answered in the remaining issues, I doubt it will be done with great execution. At this point, we’re going to need a massive exposition dump to answer everything, and nobody wants that because it robs us of the opportunity to actually experience the story.
This takes me back to my opening statement about Heroes in Crisis being a Tom King book because it is a conglomerate of his worst behaviors. King is only focused on the “big moments.” He’s been guilty of doing this a lot recently, and it tends to result in his stories feeling more like an outline than a fully-realized narrative. While this works on books that are more of a character study or political commentary (Mister Miracle, Omega Men, or Sheriff of Babylon), it doesn’t work with a murder mystery. When a mystery is involved, we need more of a linear narrative. King just jumps from moment to moment, and in the process, is neglecting us of the meat and potatoes that would really make this story interesting. We don’t get the “chase” of trying to discover or solve the murder mystery. There’s little to no momentum because of this. And, unfortunately, that creates less of a need to check out the next chapter each month.
This book is beginning to feel like Tom King is humoring himself more than anything else. He inserts another poem in what I assume is a desperate attempt to elevate this script, or perhaps it’s just there to fill pages. We get another silly song from Harley that’s as overplayed as Kite-Man’s “Hell yeah!”. We get more repetition from Booster and Harley as they both profess that the other is the killer. And we get more misguided characterization. It’s exhausting and predictable.
I don’t know what King’s goal is here. I’m not even sure if he knows at this point, but whatever he originally set out to do has gotten lost in this mess of a brainstorm. Even the elements that have been stellar throughout the entire run – the confessionals exploring people’s traumas – have been lackluster for the past two issues. Whatever momentum this book had, it’s all but gone now.
Let’s talk specifics. A number of people are going to tell you that this book does reveal many things. They’ll tell you that it reveals that Wally is the killer. That he did kill Poison Ivy. That he recognizes his pain and mistakes and manages to bring Ivy back to life… I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t actually reveal any of these things.
See, since King has failed to expand on any hints throughout this run, we don’t know where these scenes with Wally are taking place. Are they taking place in Sanctuary, or are they playing out in real life? Is this really Wally/ Ivy, or is this just a projection of them? Beyond that, can Sanctuary create corporeal figures, or is it just playing in the minds of everyone it’s encountered. If it’s the latter, how many people have Sanctuary actually interacted with and who is seeing this if it is just a projection?
These are all questions that we can’t even begin to be answered because Tom King has skirted his way around any explanations, and instead is using these lack of answers as an attempt to create a “mystery.” As I established above, this isn’t creating a mystery, this is just creating plot holes.
There are also still many questions concerning Harley and Booster that don’t clear them as potential killers for me, if this is even Booster or Harley that we’re seeing. Our lack of knowledge pertaining to Sanctuary also makes this all feel incomplete as well. There’s just too much that’s left unanswered and unexplained to actually grasp anything, and rather than getting a mystery, I feel as though I got the short end of the stick.
The Art: Honestly, the true saving grace of this issue is the art, but even then, the aesthetic of the artists don’t really mesh well. Clay Mann and Travis Moore’s work feel as if they go hand-in-hand as both artists tend to side with presenting realism. Fornes, though, presents more of a simplistic approach. Both are great on their own, but Fornes pencils definitely stand out and I can’t tell if that’s a good or a bad thing. What I can say with certainty is that Tomeu Morey is quite possibly the best colorist in the business, and he helps elevate the already incredible work of each of these artists.
- You’ve been following Heroes in Crisis since the beginning.
- You don’t mind being yanked along with little to no progression.
- Stuff happens?
Overall: Once again, Heroes in Crisis leaves us to question whether this run is a complicated narrative that will be fully realized once the last chapter hits stands, or if this is just another one of Tom King’s convoluted attempts at grandeur. Either way, this title is moving at a snail’s pace while also moving too quickly. There are plenty of “moments” throughout this issue, but none of them feel that relevant due to their execution. Also, the “reveal” that was promised is anything but that. As much as I want to like this book, it’s starting to appear as though it will be more like an event comic that bridges one status quo to another rather than serving as a strong, independent story. If that’s your cup of tea, great. Personally, I’d rather have a well-written, well-thought, story… Heroes in Crisis is not that.